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Has There Been an 'Annalise Effect' in Irish Sailing?

16th January 2018
Annalise has played an ambassador role for sailing since her win. Here she is back sailing on Dublin Bay after her medal win Annalise has played an ambassador role for sailing since her win. Here she is back sailing on Dublin Bay after her medal win Photo: Terry McDonagh

With every great win comes a ripple effect. Annalise Murphy’s silver medal in sailing at the Rio Olympics in 2016 was good news for the country, for sport, and the sailing community in general. But how has the bounce been felt one year on?

President of Irish Sailing, Jack Roy commented “it’s interesting to look at the figures to see what impact, if any, Annalise’s medal has had on increasing awareness of sailing or attracting new people to our sport. We know that Olympic medals increase people’s enthusiasm for trying out a new sport, boxing and rowing being prime examples and it appears from our figures at the end of 2017 that there certainly has been a very positive effect that can be attributed to Annalise’s success in Rio”

More people sailing

As you’d expect, there’s been a bounce in the number of people sailing around the country. The Irish Sailing’s “Try Sailing” programme which encourages clubs and training centres to create opportunities and events for new sailors, saw a distinct rise this summer, with 5,816 people attending events. That’s a 61% increase on the 2016 numbers. Interestingly half of the sailors were female, and 57% were under 18. There’s an anticipated boost to club membership too of about 5%, but these figures won’t be concrete until the end of 2018.

But there are other ways in which the Annalise effect can be seen.

annalise Murphy St Patrick's day paradeAnnalise Murphy prepares for her St. Patrick's Day Parade role

Ambassador role 

Annalise has played an ambassador role for sailing since her win. She’s been out and about, visiting her old schools, Grand Marshalling the St Patrick’s Day parade, appearing on TV, radio and podcasts, and working with Irish Sailing and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council visiting school children. All of which raise the profile of sailing and encourage a non-traditional audience to get out onto the water.

Third level recognise high-performance sailors

Some of the main universities, as a direct result of the Olympic medal and the corresponding increased awareness of sailing, have reassessed the way they view high performance athletes, and are allowing them to lengthen their degree programmes and award scholarships. For the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway athletes, this is a huge boost. By extending degree programmes, athletes can dedicate more time to their sporting careers whilst balancing that with the need to accomplish other life and career goals. UCD recently awarded Liam Glynn an Ad Astra scholarship. UCC have given three scholarships to Fionn Lyden, Seafra Guilfoyle and Mark Hassett. UCC also support Johnny Durcan on a pre-university programme which offers access to sports services and facilities. Aisling Keller, Aoife Hopkins and Sean Donnelly received sports scholarships from Trinity College Dublin this week.

Annalise_murphy_sailing_dublin_bayAnnalise at full stretch on Dublin Bay. Photo: Terry McDonagh

Young women in sailing given a boost

And what about the young women who are competing competitively in sailing – what effect did Annalise’s win have on them ? Annalise has been very open in saying that she felt she had limited natural talent, putting her success down to hard work and determination.

For Hannah Leonard, a Transition Year student who sails Optimists out of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dublin, Annalise’s achievement had a big impact. “I’ve often thought about giving up [sailing], but Annalise wasn’t good in an Optimist and it gives me hope that I could be better in a different boat like the Laser”.

For Ella May, a Laser sailor aged 16, the win has given her a boost: “when you see how close it is to home, it becomes real. When you see someone who trains where you train and come up through the ranks like you do, and experiencing what you do, I feel there’s more hope”.

For Michele Halpany who runs the 420 Class and also the junior sailors at the National Yacht Club in Dublin, Annalise is a great role model for the girls. “She’s friendly and down to earth, and it gives them a boost when they see her and chat to her. For her, the win “reinforces that girls can do just as well [in sailing]. It’s a level playing field”.

annalise_murphy_volvo_ocean_raceOn deck with the hard-working crew of Turn The Tide on Plastic — among them Annalise Murphy — at the Leg 1 start in Alicante Photo: Jen Edney/Volvo Ocean Race

A career in sailing

So if she is responsible for a bounce in people trying sailing this year, Annalise isn’t standing still. Her switch to off-shore sailing in the Volvo Ocean Race shows there’s life beyond the Olympics and that a career in sailing is possible.

If you’re interested in getting out onto the water but don’t know where to start, check out trysailing.ie

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